The key to maximizing corn yield is largely driven by minimizing the impact of potential yield-limiting factors during the growing season. The moment the corn seed is placed into the ground, yield-limiting factors go to work. Being able to identify your specific yield-limiting factors and how to manage them is an important step in producing consistent, high corn yields.
The goal of the planter is to optimize seed placement, depth, spacing and seed-to-soil contact. Corn must achieve rapid, uniform emergence, with equidistant spacing, to get off on the right foot to maximize yield later in the season. If corn doesn’t get a good start, the crop is likely already a step behind, and maximum yield potential may already be out of reach.
Get a good start
The following factors influence germination and emergence:
Soil temperature. Variable soil temperature at planting can cause variable emergence, especially when corn is planted in temperatures that hover around 50 degrees F. Variable emergence can reduce yield upward of 10%. Variable soil temperatures can be caused by variable seed depth, soil conditions, residue levels and weather patterns.
Soil moisture. Like soil temperature, variable soil moisture at planting can cause variable corn emergence. Variable soil moisture can also be caused by variable seed depth, soil conditions, residue levels and weather patterns.
Seed-to-soil contact. Good seed-to-soil contact is required for seeds to imbibe water and germinate. Poor seed-to-soil contact due to residue interference, planting too wet or improper furrow closure can cause variable corn emergence and germination.
Seed depth. Seeding depth determines the conditions in which the seed is planted. Seeds planted too shallow may encounter soil conditions that are too dry and/or too cold, whereas seeds planted too deep may encounter soil conditions that are too wet. Planting seeds at improper depths and into improper conditions can result in variable seed germination and emergence.
Invest in planter equipment
As focus begins to shift to planting next spring, a popular question is: Which equipment upgrades should I add to my planter? Planter manufacturers continue to introduce new tools and technologies to improve spring planting performance, yet it can become confusing when choosing which equipment to add, especially since this decision is often a significant investment.
Choosing which upgrades or changes need to be made to your planter starts by identifying specific planting or crop stand establishment issues you already have. There is no singular piece of equipment or technology that works for every farmer, in every field and in every situation.
For example, do you currently have difficulty with non-uniform seeding depth? Then it is possible the row-unit down pressure system needs to be checked or upgraded. Or do you have difficulty with poor furrow closure, poor seed-to-soil contact or residue interference? Then it is possible the row cleaner or closing wheel system needs to be checked or upgraded.
Lastly, it is important every year to thoroughly examine and maintain the key parts of the planter, and diagnose any problems. Improper maintenance and worn-out parts can cause planting issues that, frankly, an upgrade in new technology may not help.